Quebec City mayor confident feds will pay for expected damage from G7 protest
Protesters march towards police during meeting of Foreign Ministers of the G7 countries in Lucca, Italy, Monday, April 10, 2017. (ANSA via AP)
MONTREAL -- Not having a security perimeter in Quebec City when protesters converge in the provincial capital next week to mobilize against the G7 summit is intelligent, Mayor Regis Labeaume said Wednesday.
"You shouldn't be obliged to give them an objective," Labeaume told reporters Wednesday after he spoke to a business luncheon in Montreal.
"The last (summit) there was a barrier -- so the protesters knew exactly where to put on a show. So, we've evolved."
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is welcoming world leaders for the 44th annual G7 summit in La Malbaie, about 140 kilometres north of Quebec City.
The town of 8,000 will be in virtual lockdown during the June 8-9 meeting and protesters won't be able to get anywhere near the hotel where the heads of state will be staying.
Activists have chosen instead to gather in Quebec City for three consecutive days of activities and demonstrations, beginning June 7.
Businesses and citizens with property around the downtown area are worried, Labeaume said. Gatherings of leaders from wealthy states often attract thousands of protesters, with some engaging in violent acts toward property and the police.
During a recent tour of La Malbaie, Trudeau said "discussions are ongoing" when he was asked who would pay the tab for any property damage in Quebec City.
The federal government has budgeted $600 million to pay for its year-long, rotating G7 presidency, the responsibilities for which include hosting the summit.
Ottawa explicitly said it would pay for costs associated with loss of revenue for businesses affected by the security perimeter around La Malbaie, but has so far offered no guarantees about property damage.
Labeaume said he's confident the federal government would assume the costs.
"The summit costs $600 million -- I think there will be money left over to reimburse business owners," he said.
World leaders from Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan and Italy -- which represent the majority of global wealth -- will participate in the summit, as will a representative from the European Union and other dignitaries.
Activists and labour leaders denounce these heads of state for representing and propping up a capitalist system they say increases inequality through the exploitation of the poor and that appropriates the world's resources for profit.
The G7 leaders have done little to address offshore tax havens that deprive governments of billions of dollars that could be used for public services, said Dominique Daigneault, president of the Montreal branch of a large Quebec labour federation.
Global leaders often explain their failure to act against tax havens by stating that many countries need to act together to stop the problem.
"These leaders often use the excuse that they need to co-ordinate with other countries to fight tax havens," said Daigneault, whose labour union will be present for the protests in Quebec City.
"But the G7 is a perfect time to address this -- and you know they won't."
Arij Riahi, a defence lawyer who often represents activists arrested during demonstrations, said she hopes things don't get out of hand next week.
But she said she shares the concerns of one civil rights advocacy group, who, along with Amnesty International, plan to send a delegation to monitor how police treat protesters.
The human rights groups have deplored the fact the RCMP's security perimeter in La Malbaie will keep protesters far from the hotel, increasing the likelihood, they say, of large-scale arrests.
Police in Quebec, Riahi said, are ready to declare a protest illegal and to attempt to shut it down if only a small minority of people participating cause trouble.
That violates people's right to express themselves and criminalizes protesters, she said.
Riahi, however, believes it's a good thing Quebec's legislature didn't copy the Ontario government, which passed a special law giving authorities additional temporary powers to detain people around the security zone during the 2010 summit in Toronto.
But she said that just because it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't.
"Special laws can be voted in quickly," she said.